Thanks to everyone for all of the interesting comments on my post yesterday on query stats. In the absence of any good TV to talk about (except for Big Love — much better this season! Those silly polygamists…) I thought I would get right to discussing some of the things that came up in response to that post.
The first is personalization of queries. I guess people are worried about sucking up too much! Ha! Not possible, folks. Sucking up will get you EVERYWHERE. Ok, well, not exactly. I definitely blush and look away when someone is laying it on a little thick, but mentioning that you admire someone’s clients and, ahem, that you happen to read their blog is not sucking up. It’s showing that you took the time, did the research, researched the agent and then decided that you still liked them enough to send them a query. It’s not about the flattery, I swear. The imperessive part is that you took the time, went the extra distance, read some books, made sure you’re a good fit, and wrote a personal note. That bodes well for a good client. And ultimately, as I said in the comments section, the most important thing about personalizing is that works.
Someone also asked for a breakdown of how many queries were near misses, how many were good, and how many were really bad. I didn’t keep detailed statistics about this, but since I can’t really show you my inbox, here goes:
I’d say anywhere from half to two-thirds are just…. well, I’m not in the dream-crushing business (that’s Sean Lindsay’s job), but let’s just say that half to two-thirds are the kazoo to Ian McEwan’s grand piano.
I’d say about 30-40% are fine but not there yet. Either they were a bit too formulaic or a bit too out there or the writing was ok but not great or maybe the query letter just didn’t convey the work properly.
Maybe 10% of queries are very good (that may be a little high, honestly). Of those, maybe one or two strike my fancy enough for me to request a partial. The other good ones either aren’t a genre I specialize in or were very well-written query letters but the idea behind work the itself just didn’t grab me.
And yes, ultimately it comes down to fit. I’ve passed on some books that went on to find publishers, just like every other agent has. They just weren’t for me. But I’m really looking hard, I give each query a lot of thought, and I am always hoping that each query in my inbox is the next great book.
Good luck, everyone!